SIX adult tortoises, wild rabbits and Iberian water frogs have become new residents of Gibraltar after being released into the wild after being extinct locally for years.
Caretaker Environment Minister John Cortes spearheaded the drive to re-introduce these species to the local area during the Calpe Conference.
The ‘rewilding’ effort of these locally extinct species is ‘part of the journey towards restoring as much of Gibraltar’s original wildlife as is possible’, Cortes said.
He now hopes the three male and three female Hermann’s Tortoises will continue to breed in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.
Experts released them into the wild on September 18 from Parson’s Lodge, the location of Gibraltar’s new Natural History Museum that is due to open soon.
The process of ‘rewilding’ which reintroduces species to areas where they once lived, is becoming more popular around the world.
Gibraltar’s 2017 Calpe Conference presented the idea of rewilding the Hermann’s Tortoise on the Rock as a viable option.
It followed research by archaeologists that discovered their remains at Gorham’s and Vanguard Caves.
The small to medium-sized species of tortoise is native to the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe.
Its western variety lives in some parts of Spain, France, Corsica, Sardinia and Italy.
The eastern population can be found in the Balkans, Romania, western Turkey and Greece, having also been introduced to Cyprus.
It mainly eats wildflowers in the mornings, hiding from the heat during the day before returning to feeding in the evening.
Female Hermann’s Tortoises can lay three to five eggs a year.
They hibernate in the winter months, slowing their heart rate and breathing.
Scientists could soon upgrade the ‘near threatened’ species to vulnerable status, the government said.
“It’s a great initiative and so fitting in Parson’s Lodge, soon to be opened as a Museum of Natural History,” Cortes added.
Cortes will give the inaugural speech to this year’s Calpe Conference on September 21.
The event is dedicated to the Gibraltar’s historical and archaeological significance and held at Gibraltar University.
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